Thursday Reads: “The United States faces a national-security emergency” — David Frum

Baby reading for an apple, Mary Cassatt

Good Morning!!

I’m not too with it this morning. My mother is in the hospital and we still don’t know what is wrong with her. A few days ago, she started feeling weak and tired and she suddenly was unable to tie her shoes. Her blood pressure has been too high and her oxygen levels are too low. At the hospital the physical therapist found that her left hand wasn’t working properly, so that might explain the shoe-tying problem.

Whatever is wrong, it doesn’t seem to be life-threatening, because she has had all kinds of tests that have so far shown nothing wrong. She had an MRI yesterday and today they are going to check for blockage in her carotid artery she will work more with the physical therapist. A neurologist told my sister and my niece that she doesn’t think it’s serious, but they still don’t understand why her blood pressure is so high.

Anyway, I’ve been very anxious about Mom, and between that and the Trump madness. I can’t really think straight.

So what’s happening in the news today?

Mother and child, by Mitra Shadfar

I’m sure you’ve heard about the shocking story that broke in The New York Times last night: From the Start, Trump Has Muddied a Clear Message: Putin Interfered.

Two weeks before his inauguration, Donald J. Trump was shown highly classified intelligence indicating that President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia had personally ordered complex cyberattacks to sway the 2016 American election.

The evidence included texts and emails from Russian military officers and information gleaned from a top-secret source close to Mr. Putin, who had described to the C.I.A. how the Kremlin decided to execute its campaign of hacking and disinformation.

Mr. Trump sounded grudgingly convinced, according to several people who attended the intelligence briefing. But ever since, Mr. Trump has tried to cloud the very clear findings that he received on Jan. 6, 2017, which his own intelligence leaders have unanimously endorsed.

So Trump saw specific information proving that Vladimir Putin ordered the interference into our election to help him win, and he has spent his entire administration so far attempting to cover up for what his buddy Putin did.

The Jan. 6, 2017, meeting, held at Trump Tower, was a prime example. He was briefed that day by John O. Brennan, the C.I.A. director; James R. Clapper Jr., the director of national intelligence; and Adm. Michael S. Rogers, the director of the National Security Agency and the commander of United States Cyber Command.

The F.B.I. director, James B. Comey, was also there; after the formal briefing, he privately told Mr. Trump about the “Steele dossier.” That report, by a former British intelligence officer, included uncorroborated salacious stories of Mr. Trump’s activities during a visit to Moscow, which he denied.

The briefing revealed that a highly sensitive source close to Putin had provided information.

Mother and child, Pablo Picasso, 1901

According to nearly a dozen people who either attended the meeting with the president-elect or were later briefed on it, the four primary intelligence officials described the streams of intelligence that convinced them of Mr. Putin’s role in the election interference.

They included stolen emails from the Democratic National Committee that had been seen in Russian military intelligence networks by the British, Dutch and American intelligence services. Officers of the Russian intelligence agency formerly known as the G.R.U. had plotted with groups like WikiLeaks on how to release the email stash.

And ultimately, several human sources had confirmed Mr. Putin’s own role.

That included one particularly valuable source, who was considered so sensitive that Mr. Brennan had declined to refer to it in any way in the Presidential Daily Brief during the final months of the Obama administration, as the Russia investigation intensified.

Instead, to keep the information from being shared widely, Mr. Brennan sent reports from the source to Mr. Obama and a small group of top national security aides in a separate, white envelope to assure its security.

Mr. Trump and his aides were also given other reasons during the briefing to believe that Russia was behind the D.N.C. hacks.

I was exhausted last night and fell asleep early. I woke up about 3:30AM and check Twitter. A number of people were saying that this story was likely leaked to the NYT in response to Trump’s performance in Helsinki and afterwards and that the highly placed source must have been burned–possibly by Trump–or the story would not have been leaked.

No one except the interpreters knows what Trump gave away to Putin during their more than two hour meeting in Helsinki, and now Russia is claiming Trump and Putin made a number of deals.

The Washington Post: As Russians describe ‘verbal agreements’ at summit, U.S. officials scramble for clarity.

Two days after President Trump’s summit with Russian President Vladi­mir Putin, Russian officials offered a string of assertions about what the two leaders had achieved.

Delfina Flores Y Su Sobrina Modesta, Diego Rivera

“Important verbal agreements” were reached at the Helsinki meeting, Russia’s ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, told reporters in Moscow Wednesday, including preservation of the New Start and INF agreements, major bilateral arms control treaties whose futures have been in question. Antonov also said that Putin had made “specific and interesting proposals to Washington” on how the two countries could cooperate on Syria.

But officials at the most senior levels across the U.S. military, scrambling since Monday to determine what Trump may have agreed to on national security issues in Helsinki, had little to no information Wednesday.

At the Pentagon, as press officers remained unable to answer media questions about how the summit might impact the military, the paucity of information exposed an awkward gap in internal administration communications. The uncertainty surrounding Moscow’s suggestion of some sort of new arrangement or proposal regarding Syria, in particular, was striking because Gen. Joseph Votel, who heads U.S. Central Command, is scheduled to brief reporters on Syria and other matters Thursday.

This is interesting:

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis did not attend Wednesday’s Cabinet meeting with Trump and has not appeared in public this week or commented on the summit.

One thing Trump and Putin apparently discussed was allowing Russia to question 11 American citizens, including former Ambassador to Russia Michael McFaul.

The Washington Post: Outrage erupts over Trump-Putin ‘conversation’ about letting Russia interrogate ex-U.S. diplomat Michael McFaul.

At this week’s summit in Helsinki, Russian President Vladimir Putin proposed what President Trump described as an “incredible offer” — the Kremlin would give special counsel Robert S. Mueller III access to interviews with Russians who were indicted after they allegedly hacked Democrats in 2016. In return, Russia would be allowed to question certain U.S. officials it suspects of interfering in Russian affairs.

One of those U.S. officials is a former U.S. ambassador to Moscow, Michael McFaul, a nemesis of the Kremlin because of his criticisms of Russia’s human rights record.

On Wednesday, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to rule out the Kremlin’s request to question McFaul and other Americans. Asked during the daily press briefing whether Trump is open to the idea of having McFaul questioned by Russia, Sanders said President Trump is “going to meet with his team” to discuss the offer.

Read the rest at the WaPo.

The Daily Beast: U.S. Officials ‘at a Fucking Loss’ Over Latest Russia Sellout.

Sunshine Mother And Child, by Shijun Munns

Current and former American diplomats are expressing disgust and horror over the White House’s willingness to entertain permitting Russian officials to question a prominent former U.S. ambassador.

One serving diplomat, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said he was “at a fucking loss” over comments that can be expected to chill American diplomacy in hostile or authoritarian countries – a comment echoed by former State Department officials as well.

“It’s beyond disgraceful. It’s fundamentally ignorant with regard to how we conduct diplomacy or what that means. It really puts in jeopardy the professional independence of diplomats anywhere in the world, if the consequence of their actions is going to be potentially being turned over to a foreign government,” the U.S. diplomat told The Daily Beast.

During President Trump’s press conference with Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Putin pivoted a question about extraditing the 12 Russian intelligence officers whom Robert Mueller has indicted into a quid pro quo for going after longtime betes noire currently beyond his reach.

Putin singled out Bill Browder, whose exposure of widespread Russian tax fraud led to the passage of a U.S. human rights sanctions law Putin hates. Standing next to Trump, the Russian president accused Browder of masterminding an illegal campaign contribution to Hillary Clinton and alleging vaguely that he had “solid reason to believe that some intelligence officers guided these transactions.” Should Trump permit the Russians to question people around Browder, Putin hinted, he will let Mueller’s people be “present at questioning” of the intelligence officers.

Unfuckingbelievable!

I’ll end with this piece by David Frump at The Atlantic: The Crisis Facing America. The country can no longer afford to wait to ascertain why President Trump has subordinated himself to Putin—it must deal with the fact that he has.

Mother with children by Dattatraya Thombare

We still do not know what hold Vladimir Putin has on Donald Trump, but the whole world has now witnessed the power of its grip.

Russia helped Donald Trump into the presidency, as Robert Mueller’s indictment vividly details. Putin, in his own voice, has confirmed that he wanted Trump elected. Standing alongside his benefactor, Trump denounced the special counsel investigating Russian intervention in the U.S. election—and even repudiated his own intelligence appointees….

The reasons for Trump’s striking behavior—whether he was bribed or blackmailed or something else—remain to be ascertained. That he has publicly refused to defend his country’s independent electoral process—and did so jointly with the foreign dictator who perverted that process—is video-recorded fact.

And it’s a fact that has to be seen in the larger context of his actions in office: denouncing the European Union as a “foe,” threatening to break up nato, wrecking the U.S.-led world trading system, intervening in both U.K. and German politics in support of extremist and pro-Russian forces, and continually refusing to act to protect the integrity of U.S. voting systems—it all adds up to a political indictment, whether or not it quite qualifies as a criminal one.

America is a very legalistic society, in which public discussion often deteriorates into lawyers arguing about whether any statutes have been violated. But confronting the country in the wake of Helsinki is this question: Can it afford to wait to ascertain why Trump has subordinated himself to Putin after the president has so abjectly demonstrated that he has subordinated himself? Robert Mueller is leading a legal process. The United States faces a national-security emergency.

Please share your thoughts and links in the comment thread and have a nice Thursday!

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Lazy Saturday Reads: Trump’s Cringe-Inducing European Adventure and Other News

Good Afternoon!!

Trump in Scotland

Trump is at his golf resort in Turnberry, Scotland, and protesters are out in force there as they were in England. The Guardian:

Trump and his wife Melania arrived in Scotland on board Air Force One on Friday evening, before travelling by motorcade to his Trump Turnberry resort in Ayrshire.

By lunchtime, about 50 protesters had congregated on Turnberry beach. Just before 2pm, the US president appeared on the golf course and waved at the gathering on the beach, to be met with booing and chants of “no Trump, no racist USA”. Meanwhile, close to 10,000 marchers were streaming through the streets of Edinburgh, ending up in the Meadows park to the south of the city centre, where families sat in the sunshine and enjoyed picnics, music and speeches from local activists….

Towards the back of the crowd, the six-metre Trump baby balloon was straining against its tethers in the wind. Organiser Leo Murray described how a crew of “babysitters” had travelled up from London overnight on the sleeper train to fly the blimp at Saturday’s protest.

Murray had originally hoped to fly the balloon, which depicts Trump as an angry baby wearing a nappy, at his Turnberry course, but Police Scotland denied permission on security grounds.

Nevertheless, a Greenpeace protester managed to breach the no-fly zone on a hang glider with a sign reading ““Trump: well below par #resist” (see photo at the top of this post). Thank you to the people of Scotland for standing in solidarity with the U.S. resistance. I’m proud of my Scottish heritage today.

And while we’re talking about Trump’s Scottish golf course, be sure to check out this piece by Adam Davidson at The New Yorker: Where Did Donald Trump Get Two Hundred Million Dollars to Buy His Money-Losing Scottish Golf Club?

Between meeting the Queen of England and Vladimir Putin, President Trump will spend this weekend at Turnberry, the golf course he bought in 2014 and rechristened Trump Turnberry. This property has not received the attention it deserves. It is, by far, the biggest investment the Trump Organization has made in years. It is so much bigger than his other recent projects that it would not be unreasonable to describe the Trump Organization as, at its core, a manager of a money-losing Scottish golf course that is kept afloat with funds from licensing fees and decades-old real-estate projects.

No doubt, the President will be excited to visit. After buying the property for more than sixty million dollars, he then spent a reported hundred and fifty million pounds—about two hundred million dollars total—remaking the site, adding a new course, rehabbing an old one, and fixing up the lodgings. It is possible, though, that he will have some harsh words for his staff. The Turnberry has been losing an astonishing amount of money, including twenty-three million dollars in 2016. The Trump Organization argued that these losses were the result of being closed for several months for repair. However, revenue for the months it was open were so low—about $1.5 million per month—that it is hard to understand how the property will ever become profitable, let alone so successful that it will pay back nearly three hundred million dollars in investment and losses….

President Trump has proclaimed himself the “king of debt,” a proud master of “doing things with other people’s money.” So it was quite surprising when Jonathan O’ConnellDavid A. Fahrenthold, and Jack Gillum revealed in a Washington Post story in May that Trump had abruptly shifted strategies and begun spending hundreds of millions of dollars in cash to fund projects. In the nine years before he ran for President, the Post reported, the Trump Organization spent more than four hundred million dollars in cash on new properties—including fourteen transactions paid in full. In fifteen years, he bought twelve golf courses (ten in the U.S., one in Ireland, and a smaller one in Scotland), several homes, and a winery and estate in Virginia, and he paid for his forty-million-dollar share of the cost of building the Trump Hotel in Washington, D.C.—a property leased to Trump by the U.S. government. But his largest cash purchase was the Turnberry, followed by tens of millions of dollars in additional cash outlays for rehabbing the property.

Read the rest at The New Yorker.

Trump meets Queen Elizabeth

Yesterday, just as Rod Rosenstein was preparing to announce indictments of the 12 Russians who were responsible for hacking the DNC, DCCC, and Clinton campaign email servers and disseminating embarrassing information designed to hurt Hillary and help Trump during the 2016 election, Donald Trump was meeting with the Queen of England. And he managed to turn that into a clusterfuck just as he has everything else on his disastrous European trip.

The Washington Post: ‘Did Donald Trump just WALK IN FRONT OF THE QUEEN?’

It’s generally quite difficult to upstage the queen of England, but President Trump might have managed to do so.

Trump and Queen Elizabeth II met Friday as part of his working visit to the United Kingdom….

Trump’s walk with the queen during an inspection of guardsmen quickly became a hot topic.

Described as “cringeworthy” and “uncomfortable” viewing on social media, footage of their walk together came under intense scrutiny. While touring the castle grounds, Trump maintained a relatively brisk walk, which saw the queen, at times, fall behind him as he led the way.

At one point, the queen can be seen gesturing to Trump, although it’s unclear what exactly she may have been referring to. On social media, some speculated that Trump was being instructed on which side of her he should walk.

If that was the case, the president didn’t grasp the message.

The Trumps also arrived late for tea, making the Queen wait, and they did not bow or curtsy when they met her. That’s considered optional, but most people don’t opt to simply shake hands as the Trumps did. At least Trump didn’t do his vise grip and pull handshake with her. Then the Queen gave the Trumps the bum’s rush, ending the meeting after about half an hour.

Trump is a crude, crass, and classless pig. What an embarrassment that he is “president.” The Russians got exactly what they wanted. By contrast, the Obama’s got the full royal treatment.

Two great reads on the Mueller indictment released yesterday

Dan Friedman at Mother Jones: Mueller’s Indictment of 12 Russian Spies is Very Bad for Trump.

Special counsel Robert Mueller on Friday obtained an indictment of 12 members of a Russian military intelligence agency for hacking Democratic party emails during the 2016 election—a rebuke to President Trump, who has refused to fully acknowledge Russia’s election interference, just three days before his planned meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Finland.

The indictment, announced Friday by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, will probably not lead to immediate prosecutions—it doesn’t accuse any Americans of crimes, as the White House was quick to point out, and it’s unlikely that Russia will allow extradition of its own officials—but the charges are still a big deal in the Trump-Russia investigation and they offer extensive new details on how the Russian hacking effort actually worked.

Click on the link to read the “key takeaways.”

Emptywheel: The Russian Hack.

Mueller’s team just announced (and announced the transfer, as I predicted) of the Russian hack indictment, naming 12 GRU officers for the hack of the Hillary campaign, the DNC, and the DCCC. This will be a working thread.

Rod Rosenstein, as he did with the Internet Research Agency, made clear there are no Americans named in this indictment (and that those who interacted with Guccifer 2.0 and DC Leaks did not know they were interacting with Russians). That said, here are some of the interesting nods in it.

Again, click on the link to read the “interesting nods.” and Emptywheel’s timeline.

Trump’s Immigration Mess

Foreign Policy: White House Official Who Advocated for Refugees Sacked and Escorted From Office.

Jennifer Arrangio (center)

A senior White House official, Jennifer Arangio, was fired Thursday and escorted from her office, ending a turbulent tenure that saw her clashing with President Donald Trump’s most hard-line advisors over human rights and refugee issues, according to several current and former U.S. officials.

The officials said Arangio, a senior director for international organizations and alliances at the National Security Council, had fallen out of favor with Trump aide Stephen Miller over the number of refugees who should be allowed to enter the United States.

She had also sparred with Miller over continuing U.S. participation in international negotiations on a global migration compact, insisting that the United States could better shape international policies on migration from inside the tent.

She lost the argument, but Miller remained embittered by the rift, the officials said. When Arangio sought his endorsement for a position in the State Department, he refused to take a meeting with her.

Adding to the tension, Arangio had defended the State Department’s embattled refugee bureau amid campaigns by other top Trump aides to dismantle or defund it — efforts that were ultimately rebuffed by Congress.

“This is a disaster for the bureau,” one State Department official said. “She is really a good ally.”

Have your handkerchiefs ready for this one at The New York Times: Cleaning Toilets, Following Rules: A Migrant Child’s Days in Detention.

Adan Galicia Lopez, 3, was separated from his mother for four months.

Do not misbehave. Do not sit on the floor. Do not share your food. Do not use nicknames. Also, it is best not to cry. Doing so might hurt your case.

Lights out by 9 p.m. and lights on at dawn, after which make your bed according to the step-by-step instructions posted on the wall. Wash and mop the bathroom, scrubbing the sinks and toilets. Then it is time to form a line for the walk to breakfast.

“You had to get in line for everything,” recalled Leticia, a girl from Guatemala.

Small, slight and with long black hair, Leticia was separated from her mother after they illegally crossed the border in late May. She was sent to a shelter in South Texas — one of more than 100 government-contracted detention facilities for migrant children around the country that are a rough blend of boarding school, day care center and medium security lockup. They are reserved for the likes of Leticia, 12, and her brother, Walter, 10.

The facility’s list of no-no’s also included this: Do not touch another child, even if that child is your hermanito or hermanita — your little brother or sister.

Leticia had hoped to give her little brother a reassuring hug. But “they told me I couldn’t touch him,” she recalled.

This is a must read, even though the stories of these children are heartbreaking. Trump and his minions must be held accountable for this outrage.

 


Tuesday Reads: Trump Nominates Brett Kavanaugh for SCOTUS

The Four Justices, Nelson Shanks, National Portrait Gallery, Smithsonian Institution

Good Morning!!

Last night thug “president” Trump did his ridiculous PT Barnum act with his nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court to replace Anthony Kennedy. Supposedly, Trump was deciding among about four candidates, but it turns out the fix may have been in all along.

Has any other president made a deal with a Supreme Court Justice to appoint a chosen replacement?

From Politico: How a private meeting with Kennedy helped Trump get to ‘yes’ on Kavanaugh.

After Justice Anthony Kennedy told President Donald Trump he would relinquish his seat on the Supreme Court, the president emerged from his private meeting with the retiring jurist focused on one candidate to name as his successor: Judge Brett Kavanaugh, Kennedy’s former law clerk….

So even as Trump dispatched his top lawyers to comb though Kavanaugh’s rulings and quizzed allies about whether he was too close to the Bush family, potentially a fatal flaw, the president was always leaning toward accepting Kennedy’s partiality for Kavanaugh while preserving the secret until his formal announcement, sources with knowledge of his thinking told POLITICO.

I’m sure we’ll be learning more about this, and I hope Democrats respond aggressively.

Basic background on Kavenaugh

NBC News: Who is Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh?

President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court pick is no stranger to partisan politics: Before becoming a judge, he was helping make the case for the impeachment of Bill Clinton and later for the election of George W. Bush.

U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit judge Brett Kavanaugh

Twenty years ago, Kavanaugh’s story starts amid the highly politicized independent counsel investigation into Clinton. He worked for Starr as a young Yale Law graduate, first when Kenneth Starr was solicitor general and later in the Office of the Independent Counsel, where Kavanaugh was a key player in the slew of investigations into the Clintons, including the Whitewater scandal, the suicide of White House counsel Vincent Foster and Clinton’s affair with Monica Lewinsky.

The Starr Report to Congress laid out the details of Clinton and Lewinsky’s affair and findings of potential wrongdoing by the president. Kavanaugh was the primary author of the section on the grounds for possible impeachment, Starr would reportedly later say,because “that needed to be very carefully crafted, so I was looking to one of the office’s most talented lawyers — of superb and balanced judgment — to take the lead in drafting.” [….]

He was a member of the GOP legal team fighting to stop the recount in Florida to clear the way for Bush’s election against Al Gore in 2000, later taking a job in the Bush White House in 2001, where he’d serve for five years as counsel and later staff secretary until his confirmation to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the D.C. Circuit in 2006.

The Washington Post: Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s Supreme Court pick, has sided with broad views of presidential powers.

Brett M. Kavanaugh, the federal judge nominated by President Trump on Monday to the Supreme Court, has endorsed robust views of the powers of the president, consistently siding with arguments in favor of broad executive authority during his 12 years on the bench in Washington.

Justice Anthony Kennedy

He has called for restructuring the government’s consumer watchdog agency so the president could remove the director and has been a leading defender of the government’s position when it comes to using military commissions to prosecute terrorism suspects.

Kavanaugh is “an unrelenting, unapologetic defender of presidential power” who believes courts can and should actively seek to rein in “large swaths of the current administrative state,” said University of Texas law professor Stephen Vladeck, who closely follows the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit.

Kavanaugh’s record suggests that if he is confirmed, he would be more to the right than the man he would replace, Justice Anthony M. Kennedy, for whom he clerked. Kavanaugh has staked out conservative positions in cases involving gun rights, abortion and the separation of powers.

Read more details at both of those links.

What Kavanaugh Would Likely Do on the Court

Slate: How Brett Kavanaugh Will Gut Roe v. Wade

Kavanaugh is an obvious choice for Trump. A judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit, he has maintained staunchly conservative credentials without earning a reputation for being a bomb-thrower. Unless Republican Sen. Susan Collins grows a spine, which she won’t, he has a clear path to Senate confirmation. During his hearings, Kavanaugh will claim he cannot reveal his true feelings about Roe v. Wade, the 1973 Supreme Court decision establishing a constitutional right to abortion access. But there is little doubt that Kavanaugh will gut Roe at the first opportunity. Indeed, he has already provided a road map that shows precisely how he’ll do it.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg

Kavanaugh was forced to confront the abortion question in 2017 after the Trump administration barred an undocumented minor, known as Jane Doe, from terminating an unwanted pregnancy. The American Civil Liberties Union sued on Doe’s behalf, and the dispute came before a three-judge panel at the D.C. Circuit. Kavanaugh was joined on the panel by Judge Karen L. Henderson, an arch-conservative, and Judge Patricia Millett, a moderate liberal. Doe, who was being held in a federally funded Texas shelter, had already obtained the necessary judicial bypass to get an abortion. But the Trump administration refused to let her see an abortion provider, instead sending her to an anti-abortion “crisis pregnancy center.”

By that point, Doe would be about 18 weeks pregnant. Texas bans abortion after 20 weeks, and the procedure becomes more dangerous as the pregnancy advances. Moreover, the process of finding and verifying a sponsor for an undocumented minor frequently takes weeks or months. And Doe’s lawyers had already searched for a possible sponsor, to no avail. Kavanaugh’s ostensible compromise, then, was nothing of the sort. At best, it would force Doe to suffer through her unwanted pregnancy for at least two more weeks, increasing the odds of complications when she was finally able to obtain an abortion. At worst, it meant the government could run down the clock to the point that an abortion would become illegal.

Luckily for Doe, the full D.C. Circuit swiftly reversed Kavanaugh’s decision and allowed her to terminate her pregnancy, which she did. This move prompted Kavanaugh to write a bitter dissent explaining why the government’s bar on Doe’s abortion was not, in fact, an undue burden.

Read the rest at Slate.

The Daily Beast: Brett Kavanaugh, Trump’s Supreme Court Pick, Is Probably the End of Abortion Rights and Same-Sex Marriage.

When President Trump Monday nominated Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court, he probably doomed the right to abortion, same-sex marriage, and maybe even contraception….

Future justice Elena Kagan arging a campaign finance reform case before SCOTUS

…while Kavanaugh’s record on women’s and LGBT rights is sparse, it gives good reason to suspect that he could be the swing vote to strike down Roe v. Wade, the abortion-rights case. This, after all, is what Trump promised in 2016: that Roe would be “automatically” be overturned should he be elected. And Kavanaugh has been praised by numerous right-wing organizations.

In the case of Garza v. Hargan, the D.C. Circuit Court of Appeals held that an undocumented teenage immigrant was entitled to obtain an abortion without having to obtain familial consent (as is required in several states).

Kavanaugh vigorously dissented, asking, “Is it really absurd for the United States to think that the minor should be transferred to her immigration sponsor ― ordinarily a family member, relative, or friend ― before she makes that decision?”

Those are strong words, endorsing not only parental consent rules but enforcing them in extreme circumstances. If you are looking for signals that a Justice Kavanaugh would limit or overturn Roe, Garza is a giant red flare.

There’s also a possibility that Kavenaugh might not be right wing enough to satisfy some Republicans.

Kavanaugh may not be conservative enough to survive the confirmation process. There is even talk that conservatives might revolt against Kavanaugh, as they did in 2005 against George W. Bush’s nomination of Harriet Miers. The reason? Many conservatives wanted Kavanaugh to cast doubt on the teenager’s right to get an abortion at all, which another dissenting judge did.

Neal K. Katyal for respondents, Travel Ban case

Legally speaking, that objection is absurd. Not unlike “judicial minimalist” Chief Justice John Roberts, Kavanaugh was discussing the case at issue, not some hypothetical issue. And he was responding to the circuit court’s holding, not writing an essay.

But there’s more. Some conservatives have pointed to dicta in another Kavanaugh opinion, a dissent in Priests for Life v. HHS, a case similar to Hobby Lobby involving the Affordable Care Act’s contraception requirement. While dissenting in favor of the Catholic religious organization objecting to the requirement, Kavanaugh wrote that the “the Government has a compelling interest in facilitating women’s access to contraception” because of a variety of factors, such as “reducing the number of unintended pregnancies would further women’s health, advance women’s personal and professional opportunities, reduce the number of abortions, and help break a cycle of poverty.”

Kavanaugh is writing here about the state’s interest in access to contraception, not whether an individual has a constitutional right to access it. Those are totally different questions. But Kavanaugh’s opinion doesn’t question the constitutional right either, which rests on the same foundations (substantive due process, privacy, family) as the right to obtain an abortion.

This one is a must read–lots of details on Kavenaugh’s record. Head over to The Daily Beast to read the rest.

Read more about Kavenaugh and abortion here:

One more from The New York Times editorial board: There’s So Much You Don’t Know About Brett Kavanaugh. And you probably won’t until it’s too late.

First, the awful lot: Judge Kavanaugh would shift the balance of constitutional jurisprudence to the right, creating a solid right-wing majority on the court possibly until the second half of the 21st century. While the somewhat unpredictable Justice Anthony Kennedy once served as the fulcrum for the court, that role will now go to Chief Justice John Roberts Jr., a far more ideological conservative.

Judge Kavanaugh, who sits on the federal appeals court for the District of Columbia, has been a fixture in conservative politics and is widely respected by the Republican elite. Before becoming a judge, he clerked for Justice Kennedy and worked for Kenneth Starr, the independent counsel who investigated President Bill Clinton, and later in the George W. Bush White House. He successfully portrayed himself in his remarks at the White House as a nice guy who coaches girls in basketball, feeds the homeless and believes in the Constitution.

What Americans can’t know about Judge Kavanaugh: pretty much anything else. That’s thanks to the perversion of the Supreme Court confirmation process, which once provided the Senate and the public with useful information about a potential justice’s views on the Constitution, but which has, ever since the bitter battle over President Ronald Reagan’s failed nomination of Robert Bork in 1987, devolved into a second-rate Samuel Beckett play starring an earnest legal scholar who sits for days at a microphone and labors to sound thoughtful while saying almost nothing.

Read the rest at the NYT.

I know there’s plenty of other news, but this is the biggie for today. Post your thoughts and links on any topic in the comment thread, and try to have a good day despite the horrors all around us.

 


Thursday Reads: It’s Not Over.

Self-portrait, Michelle Ranta

Good Morning!!

Shortly after Trump signed his completely unnecessary “executive order” and took off for his Hitler-style rally in Duluth, Minnesota, it became clear that the administration’s supposed retreat from separating the children of refugees from from their parents was a scam. In fact the title of the order on the White House website is “Affording Congress an Opportunity to Address Family Separation.” The zero tolerance policy will continue and the government has no plans for reuniting families who have already been torn apart.

So Trump is still putting the burden on Congress to solve the problem he caused. Because of the Flores decision, children cannot be kept in detention centers for more than 20 days. The executive order says that Jeff Sessions will go to court to seek relief, but experts say that won’t happen. So families are still going to be separated. From Vox:

The solution to the crisis of family separation at the US-Mexico border, the Trump administration has decided, is to get rid of a 1997 federal court decision that strictly limits the government’s ability to keep children in immigration detention.

The administration has fingered Flores v. Reno, or the “Flores settlement,” as the reason it is “forced” to separate parents from their children to prosecute them. It claims that because it cannot keep parents and children in immigration detention together, it has no choice but to detain parents in immigration detention (after they’ve been criminally prosecuted for illegal entry) and send the children to the Department of Health and Human Services as “unaccompanied alien children.”

The Flores settlement requires the federal government to do two things: to place children with a close relative or family friend “without unnecessary delay,” rather than keeping them in custody; and to keep immigrant children who are in custody in the “least restrictive conditions” possible.

Francoise Gilot (French b.1921), The Red Vest. 1955

Republicans in Congress have proposed legislation that would overrule Flores and allow children to be kept with their parents in Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) custody while they are put through criminal prosecution and deportation proceedings — which many migrant families fight by claiming asylum in the US, a process that can stretch out for months or years.

Trump can’t overrule the Flores settlement with the stroke of a pen. But getting rid of the court agreement has been in his administration’s sights for months. While Republicans frame Flores as the obstacle to keeping families together, many of the people outraged over family separation might not be too happy with a world without Flores, either.

Read the rest at Vox.

As of last night, none of the government agencies or outside organizations involved in what is going on down at the southern border had received any instructions to stop separating families. The government is still refusing to let public officials or media into the facilities where children are being held. We still know almost nothing about what has happened to the girls, toddlers, and infants who have been basically kidnapped by the Trump administration.

Fortunately, MSNBC at least is still keeping reporters down in Texas, and this morning NYC Mayor Bill de Blasio is down there. I saw on MSNBC early this morning that Rev. Al Sharpton is in Texas and was planning to meet with the director of a Catholic Charities shelter. But it’s going to be awhile before we understand the extent of the damage Trump and Sessions have done.

It’s very difficult at this point to figure out what is actually happening, so the best I can do is share what I’m finding in the media and hope you’ll do the same. It’s going to take some time for us to understand the depth of the humanitarian crisis we are in as a country, much less begin to deal with Trump’s mess.

Daniela Astone, born 1980 in Pisa, Italy

It’s now after noon, and I see on MSNBC that Melania Trump is planning to visit a center for migrant children this afternoon.

The good news is that all this scrutiny is also shining a light on the treatment of immigrant children who were already in federal custody and have been farmed out to private shelters. It’s not looking good.

Some links to check out

Think Progress: Immigrant children are being placed by feds into abusive homes, reports reveal.

The Texas Tribune: Separated migrant children are headed toward shelters that have a history of abuse and neglect.

The Cut: Immigrant Children Are Being Sent to Shelters With Histories of Abuse.

Time: Young Immigrants Held in a Virginia Detention Center Say They Were Abused By Guards.

Buzzfeed: “You’re Not Even Wanted In Mexico”: Teens Describe Life Inside A US Detention Center.

The Boston Globe: Separations end, but foster care, shelters remain overwhelmed.

Suggested Reads

The New Yorker has a report on the people who are trying to enter the US at approved locations to apply for asylum: “We Are at Capacity”: An Asylum Standoff on the Bridge Between Ciudad Juárez and El Paso.

Around 7 a.m. on Wednesday morning, a forty-year-old Mexican woman named Angelica walked to the foot of the Paso del Norte—one of the bridges that connects Ciudad Juárez to El Paso, Texas—with her granddaughter, a toddler no older than three. Later in the day the temperature would hit a hundred and three, but for now the air was cool. Coffee and candy vendors stood with their carts at the intersection that leads to the bridge, and the morning crowd was out, many of them young women, looking like they were walking to work.

Angelica and her granddaughter were there to meet Ruben Garcia, the director of Annunciation House, a Catholic hospitality house in El Paso, who intended to walk them over the bridge so that they could request asylum in the United States. As part of the Trump Administration’s new zero-tolerance policy, Attorney General Jeff Sessions has warned that asylum seekers must cross at legal points of entry, such as the Paso del Norte, in order to avoid criminal prosecution. But, in the weeks since Sessions announced the new policy, U.S. Customs and Border Protection has been stationing agents in the middle of Paso del Norte and other legal border crossings, where they turn away many asylum seekers, preventing them from even stepping onto the U.S. side. “They’re saying, ‘We’re too full,’ ” Garcia told me. Angelica had been in Juárez for a month, and had already attempted to cross the bridge once, unsuccessfully.

As we’ve already heard, this is a common experience now for asylum seekers. Read more at the link above.

By now you’ve probably seen the new Time Magazine cover. From the cover story: A Reckoning After Trump’s Border Separation Policy: What Kind of Country Are We?

Presidents have many jobs, and one is telling us who we are.

For the first 240 years of U.S. history, at least, our most revered chief executives reliably articulated a set of high-minded, humanist values that bound together a diverse nation by naming what we aspired to: democracy, humanity, equality. The Enlightenment ideals Thomas Jefferson etched onto the Declaration of Independence were given voice by Presidents from George Washington to Barack Obama.

Donald Trump doesn’t talk like that. In the 18 months since his Inauguration, Trump has mentioned “democracy” fewer than 100 times, “equality” only 12 times and “human rights” just 10 times. The tallies, drawn from factba.se, a searchable online agglomeration of 5 million of Trump’s words, contrast with his predecessors’: at the same point in his first term, Ronald Reagan had mentioned equality three times as often in recorded remarks, which included 48 references to human rights, according to the American Presidency Project at the University of California, Santa Barbara.

Trump embraces a different set of values. He speaks often of patriotism, albeit in the narrow sense of military duty, or as the kind of loyalty test he’s made to NFL players. He also esteems religious liberty and economic vitality. But American’s 45th President is “not doing what rhetoricians call that ‘transcendent move,’” says Mary E. Stuckey, a communications professor at Penn State University and author of Defining Americans: The Presidency and National Identity. Instead, with each passing month he is testing anew just how far from our founding humanism his “America first” policies can take us. And over the past two months on our southern border, we have seen the result.

Click on the link to read the rest.

PAUL GUSTAV FISCHER Leyendo en la terraza

NBC News: Tech companies quietly work with ICE as border crisis continues.

Several high-profile data and tech companies have made millions of dollars from contracts with the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency over the past several months — even as some of them publicly disavow the Trump administration’s recent orders to separate immigrant children from their parents.

Hewlett Packard Enterprise, Thomson Reuters, Microsoft, Motorola Solutions and Palantir all have active contracts with the agency, known as ICE, according to a public records search conducted by NBC News.

The contracts highlight how technology companies, many of which have developed advanced data analysis and tracking capabilities, are putting their innovations to work with the U.S. government in ways that are often not visible to the public.

Read the details at NBC News.

More stories to check out

The Washington Post: Families will no longer be separated at the border. But where are my clients’ kids?

NBC News: Pentagon sending military lawyers to border to help prosecute immigration cases.

Charles Blow: The King and Queen of Cruelty.

Gallup: Record-High 75% of Americans Say Immigration Is Good Thing.

CNN: Trump’s immigration reversal creates its own chaos.

 

I know I haven’t even scratched the surface of what’s happening today, so please share your own links in the comment thread.


Tuesday Reads: Trump’s Self-Created Humanitarian Crisis

Good Morning!!

It’s been years since I have cried as hard as I did yesterday after listening to the recording (released by ProPublica) of 10 little children wailing and sobbing, calling for their moms and dads. Just writing about it I already have tears in my eyes. We cannot tolerate this outrage committed in our name.

I wish I could join marches against this horrendous Trump policy, but I can’t. I’m 70 years old, and I have trouble walking and standing because of arthritis and sciatica. I don’t have much money, but I’m going to donate today to organizations that are working to deal with this horror, and I’ll keep donating what I can. A few days ago, Dahlia Lithwick published a long list of organizations doing this work: Here’s How You Can Help Fight Family Separation at the Border.

Hillary Clinton is recommending donating through ActBlue where your contribution will be divided among several organizations.

Here is the statement that Hillary made on Trump’s cruel border policies.

Even the ultra-right wing Wall Street Journal editorial board is asking why Trump insists on causing a humanitarian crisis on our southern border: The GOP’s Immigration Meltdown. Restrictionists may cost Republicans their majorities in Congress.

Are Republicans trying to lose their majorities in Congress this November? We assume not, but you can’t tell from the party’s internal feuding over immigration that is fast becoming an election-year nightmare over separating immigrant children from their parents. This is what happens when restrictionists have a veto over GOP policy.

Democrats fanned out across the U.S. this weekend to highlight the turmoil caused by the Trump Administration’s new “zero-tolerance” policy of detaining all adult aliens crossing the border illegally. That means separating parents from children who arrive together because courts have said migrant children can’t be jailed.

Children are put into tent encampments or other sites while their parents are processed for deportation. That can take several days, which is bad enough, though much longer if the adults challenge their deportation. Trump officials are defending the policy as a deterrent to illegal entry, but surely they understand that separating parents from children is morally unacceptable and politically unsustainable.

The immediate solution should be for the Administration to end “zero-tolerance” until it can be implemented without dividing families. Congress can also act to allow migrants to be detained with children in facilities appropriate for families. Until that is possible, better to release those who have no criminal past rather than continue forced separation.

As of last night, Trump was doubling down on the policy he alone set out and he alone can stop. The Washington Post: Trump defiant as crisis grows over family separation at the border.

The Trump administration’s move to separate immigrant families at the border and detain children apart from their parents spiraled into a humanitarian and political crisis Monday as the White House struggled to contain the growing public outcry.

The situation has become a moral test for President Trump and his administration. The president on Monday voiced defiance and continued to falsely blame congressional Democrats for what he decried as a “horrible and tough” situation. But Trump is empowered to immediately order border agents to stop separating families as a result of his “zero tolerance” enforcement policy.

The president asserted that the parents illegally crossing the U.S.-Mexico border with their children “could be murderers and thieves and so much else,” echoing his incendiary remarks about immigrants at his campaign launch in 2015. And in a series of dark tweets, he warned that undocumented immigrants could increase gang crime and usher in cultural changes.

“The United States will not be a migrant camp, and it will not be a refugee holding facility,” Trump said in a midday speech. “You look at what’s happening in Europe, you look at what’s happening in other places. We can’t allow that to happen to the United States. Not on my watch.”

Here’s what Trump tweeted this morning:

“Infested.” Get it? Like insects. That’s how this monster talks about human beings fleeing violence in their home countries.

Yesterday evening Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen defended the Trump administration cruel policy. Politico: Nielsen becomes face of Trump’s border separations.

Nielsen made a rare and hastily arranged appearance in the White House briefing room on Monday afternoon, where she defended the separation of nearly 2,000 children from their parents. Sounding alternately animated and defensive, Nielsen said the administration would “enforce every law we have on the books,” even if it meant breaking up parents and their kids.

White House chief of staff John Kelly advised Nielsen against doing the news conference, but she charged ahead anyway, according to a senior administration official. She placed blame for some of the heart-rending scenes captured by the news media squarely on Congress and charged that kids are being warehoused because lawmakers have shirked their responsibility to close loopholes in current immigration law.

Inside the administration, Nielsen has argued that implementing a zero tolerance policy would prove tremendously difficult without this, but the administration has pressed ahead regardless. On Monday, she responded indignantly when asked whether she intended to create a situation in which thousands of children are caged in former big-box stores. “I find that offensive,” she said. “Why would I create a policy that purposely does that?”

Nielsen’s sudden ownership of the administration’s most controversial domestic policy to date came after senior administration officials pushed her to get on message over the weekend. Last month, she said in her Senate testimony that she shares lawmakers’ concerns about the monitoring of unaccompanied children placed with other family members or guardians.

“We were all wondering where she was and how long it would be until she got that talk,” said one Trump ally. “Everyone knew that talk was coming.”

So she really didn’t want to do this, but she knuckled under to Trump instead of resigning. And check out this bit on John Kelly:

According to four people close to Kelly, the former Marine general has largely yielded his role as the enforcer in the West Wing as his relationship with Trump has soured. While Kelly himself once believed he stood between Trump and chaos, he has told at least one person close to him that he may as well let the president do what he wants, even if it leads to impeachment — at least this chapter of American history would come to a close.

Yet neither Kelly nor his protege Nielson has had the courage to resign in protest.

The horror of tearing children from their parents is bad enough, but Trump doesn’t even have a plan for reuniting them. Buzzfeed:

McALLEN, Texas — Two months after the Trump administration began separating children from their parents along the US–Mexico border, immigration authorities said they have no plans to reunite children with their parents after the parents’ illegal-entry cases have been resolved but their immigration case is still pending.

Nearly 2,000 children were separated from their parents in the first six weeks of the policy, ending May 31, according to statistics released by the Department of Homeland Security. But how many of those children’s parents — DHS said the 1,995 children who’d been separated had been accompanied by 1,940 adults — have already had their illegal-entry cases resolved is unclear.

Most such cases are resolved within days or weeks.

Danielle Bennett, a spokesperson for Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), the agency with responsibility for enforcing immigration law, said authorities have no intention of reuniting the parents until they’re about to be deported.

“Reunification typically does not occur until the removal stage of the process, but depending on the circumstances of the case, reunification could occur sooner,” Bennett told BuzzFeed News. “The logistics of the reunification are made on a case-by-case basis.”

But she said she could not give statistics for the number of families that have been reunified since the “zero tolerance” policy was announced. Nor could she give examples of a successful reunification.

“We don’t have any metrics to provide at this point and we wouldn’t proactively give examples of this,” Bennett said.

Read the rest at Buzzfeed.

The government still won’t tell us where the girls, toddlers, and infants are being warehoused. Some people suggests that’s because they think seeing boys will make people think about gangs. I don’t know, but we have to find out where the rest of the children are.

 

Many and individuals are speaking out about the growing nightmare of family separations. Examples:

NBC News: All four living former first ladies condemn Trump border policy.

Medium: Bipartisan Group of Former United States Attorneys Call on Sessions to End Family Separation.

Talking Points Memo: 600 Methodists File Complaint Against Sessions For ‘Zero Tolerance’ Policy.

The American people aren’t happy about the policy either, according to polls. Here’s one:

CBS News: CBS News poll: Two-thirds of Americans say separating children, parents at border unacceptable.

Despite the backlash, Trump adviser Stephen Miller is determined to keep upping the ante on immigration “crackdowns.” Politico: Trump aides plan fresh immigration crackdowns before midterms.

Senior policy adviser Stephen Miller and a team of officials from the departments of Justice, Labor, Homeland Security and the Office of Management and Budget have been quietly meeting for months to find ways to use executive authority and under-the-radar rule changes to strengthen hard-line U.S. immigration policies, according to interviews with half a dozen current and former administration officials and Republicans close to the White House.

The goal for Miller and his team is to arm Trump with enough data and statistics by early September to show voters that he fulfilled his immigration promises — even without a border wall or any other congressional measure, said one Republican close to the White House.

Among the fresh ideas being circulated: tightening rules on student visas and exchange programs; limiting visas for temporary agricultural workers; making it harder for legal immigrants who have applied for welfare programs to obtain residency; and collecting biometric data from visitors from certain countries….

In one of the most closely watched plans under discussion, DHS has proposed a new rule that former Obama administration officials and immigration advocates worry could be used as an end run around a 1997 court settlement that limits the time migrant children can be kept in government custody. Putting a formal government rule in place, lawyers and advocates say, could in effect supersede the settlement, allowing the administration to get rid of it altogether by dropping the rule a year or two later.

“Once you rescind that regulation, then you go back to being able to do whatever you want and the detention becomes the complete discretion of ICE,” said Leon Fresco, former deputy assistant attorney general for the Office of Immigration Litigation at the Department of Justice. “That is where people think this is headed.”

That’s all I’ve got for today. What stories are you following?


Lazy Saturday Reads: Trump’s Monstrous Family Separation Policy

Good Morning!!

The pain of the thousands of children and parents who have been separated at the border on orders from Trump and Sessions is on my mind every day, all day long now. Even soulless Trump has some distant sense that his fascism may be too out in the open now, because he’s trying to blame Democrats for his cruelty. Can you believe he actually had this claim posted on the White House web page? It’s followed by a list of people harmed by illegal immigrants. How does that justify punishing children?

Today The Intercept posted a video showing that refugees are being turned back from the border and told they can’t apply for refugee status because there’s no room for them in the United States.

Anyone who still supports Trump is complicit in the evil he is perpetrating on desperate people and the shame he is bringing down on our country.

Trump is on twitter this morning claiming he’s not responsible for the family separations he ordered. But Jeff Sessions isn’t hiding how much he loves this policy, and John Kelly endorsed it long ago. In fact, he suggested doing this when he was head of Homeland Security. Remember his NPR interview last month?

Are you in favor of this new move announced by the attorney general early this week that if you cross the border illegally even if you’re a mother with your children [we’re going] to arrest you? We’re going to prosecute you, we’re going to send your kids to a juvenile shelter?

The name of the game to a large degree. Let me step back and tell you that the vast majority of the people that move illegally into United States are not bad people. They’re not criminals. They’re not MS-13. Some of them are not. But they’re also not people that would easily assimilate into the United States into our modern society. They’re overwhelmingly rural people in the countries they come from – fourth, fifth, sixth grade educations are kind of the norm. They don’t speak English, obviously that’s a big thing. They don’t speak English. They don’t integrate well, they don’t have skills. They’re not bad people. They’re coming here for a reason. And I sympathize with the reason. But the laws are the laws. But a big name of the game is deterrence.

John Kelly is a monster.

Family separation stands as a pretty tough deterrent.

It could be a tough deterrent — would be a tough deterrent. A much faster turnaround on asylum seekers.

Even though people say that’s cruel and heartless to take a mother away from her children?

I wouldn’t put it quite that way. The children will be taken care of — put into foster care or whatever. But the big point is they elected to come illegally into the United States and this is a technique that no one hopes will be used extensively or for very long.

“Foster care or whatever.” Kelly is another monster among monsters.

Please read this Twitter thread by a man who was separated from his father at age 4 and put in a group home. He describes the behavior of traumatized children and how they are punished for acting out. Other people share their stories in the thread too.

The LA Times talked to a man who resigned in disgust from one of the places where children are being warehoused: ‘Prison-like’ migrant youth shelter is understaffed, unequipped for Trump’s ‘zero tolerance’ policy, insider says.

Colleagues at a government-contracted shelter in Arizona had a specific request for Antar Davidson when three Brazilian migrant children arrived: “Tell them they can’t hug.”

Davidson, 32, is of Brazilian descent and speaks Portuguese. He said the siblings — ages 16, 10 and 6 — were distraught after being separated from their parents at the border. The children were “huddled together, tears streaming down their faces,” he said.

Officials had told them their parents were “lost,” which they interpreted to mean dead. Davidson said he told the children he didn’t know where their parents were, but that they had to be strong.

“The 16-year-old, he looks at me and says, ‘How?’” Davidson said. As he watched the youth cry, he thought, “This is not healthy.”

Antar Davidson

Davidson quit this week after being a youth care worker at the Tucson shelter, Estrella del Norte, for just a few months. He decided to speak out about his experiences there in hopes of improving a system often shielded from public scrutiny. His comments in a telephone interview offer a rare look into the operation of a migrant shelter.

Davidson said he became disillusioned after the Trump administration’s “zero tolerance” policy began sending the shelter not only children who had crossed the border unaccompanied by adults, but also those separated from their parents.

The caseload is straining a facility he described as understaffed and unequipped to deal with children experiencing trauma, such as the three Brazilians. During his time at the shelter, children were running away, screaming, throwing furniture and attempting suicide, Davidson said. Several were being monitored this week because they were at risk of running away, self-harm and suicide, records show.

Read the rest at the link above.

At the Philadelphia Inquirer, Will Bunch writes: Abolishing ICE is the radical idea America needs to be talking about.

After all the stories and viral videos — the screaming mom dragged away from her horrified young children, the 10-year-old with cerebral palsy who got busted in her ambulance after emergency surgery, the pillars of their local communities who showed for a routine check-up and ended up in detention, the stepped-up raids, and all the arrests in courtrooms, outside schoolhouse doors, and behind churches — Americans are right to wonder if our out-of-control immigration cops have any limits at all.

Amazingly, they do. When it came out a couple of weeks ago that Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) was on the brink of deporting the wife of an Army Special Forces veteran — planning to send her back to Honduras, where drug dealers might seek violent revenge for her husband’s past drug-interdiction work there with the U.S. military — the public outcry was so great that even this tone-deaf federal agency backed down, for once.

Before the Trump administration took office in January 2016, the notion that military wife Elia Crawford would be deported by the United States would have been a total non-starter. Attorneys with the U.S. Department of Homeland Security used to routinely find ways to keep military spouses and family members in the country — one of a hodge-podge of practices that, although wildly imperfect, sought to bring some common sense to America’s muddled immigration policy. But then our treatment of the undocumented and their family members, backsliding in many ways now for two decades, fell off a moral cliff with the arrival of Trump and his minions. That means it’s now typically full-steam ahead for any and all deportation orders, regardless of who gets hurt.

The conduct of ICE and its first cousin, the Border Patrol, has been arguably the darkest moral stain on the sometimes comical but too often diabolical Trump era. And yet these one-off individual outrages — the Indonesian who led Superstorm Sandy rebuilding efforts who took refuge in a church to avoid ICE, or Philadelphia’s Carmelo Apolonio Hernandez, the mother of four that ICE wants to send back to the Mexican town where her relatives were killed by drug lords — have a hard time breaking through the bubble, amid the mass chaos of our 45th president. But now we have actual numbers to tell the sorry state of our current Deportation Nation.

In the first year of Trump’s presidency, we now know, immigration arrests and detentions spiked by a whopping one-third over 2016 — proof that the president has kept has his campaign promise for a “deportation force,” merely by “taking the shackles off” the ready and willing team he already had in place, ICE. What’s more, the biggest driver of this increase has been the seizure of undocumented immigrants with no criminal record, which has doubled under the Trump administration.

Please go to the link to read the rest.

One more, and then I need to to take some deep breaths and try to calm down.

NPR: Doctors Concerned About ‘Irreparable Harm’ To Separated Migrant Children.

In South Texas, pediatricians started sounding the alarm weeks ago as migrant shelters began filling up with younger children separated from their parents after they crossed the U.S.-Mexico border illegally.

The concerned pediatricians contacted Colleen Kraft, president of the American Academy of Pediatrics, and she flew to Texas and visited a shelter for migrant children in the Rio Grande Valley. There, she saw a young girl in tears. “She couldn’t have been more than 2 years old,” Kraft says. “Just crying and pounding and having a huge, huge temper tantrum. This child was just screaming, and nobody could help her. And we know why she was crying. She didn’t have her mother. She didn’t have her parent who could soothe her and take care of her.”

The number of migrant children in U.S. government custody is soaring — partly the result of a policy decision by the Trump administration to separate children from their parents who are being prosecuted for unlawful entry. Hundreds of the children being held in shelters are under age 13.

Medical professionals, members of Congress and religious leaders are calling on the Trump administration to stop separating migrant families. They question whether these shelter facilities are appropriate for younger children….

Pediatricians and immigrant advocates are warning that separating migrant children from their families can cause “toxic stress” that disrupts a child’s brain development and harms long-term health.

At the facility in South Texas, Kraft says, the staff told her that federal regulations prevented them from touching or holding the child to soothe her.

While shelter managers and other experts say there is no such rule, Kraft says the confusion underscores why these shelters are not the right place for young children — especially kids who have fled dangerous countries and who have just been separated from their parents. “By separating parents and children, we are doing irreparable harm to these children. The long-term concern of what we call toxic stress is that brains are not developed efficiently or effectively,” Kraft says. “And these children go on to have behavior problems, to have long-term medical problems.”

I suppose Trump would be happy about this, because some of these kids might grow up to commit crimes that he can highlight in his Hitler-style rallies and on the White House website.

What stories are you following today?


Tuesday Reads: The Art of Giving Up the Store

Good Morning!!

As we all expected, Trump got played by Kim Jong Un in Singapore. Trump laid the flattery on thick and gave away the store while Kim gave nothing specific in return. According to The Guardian’s live blog, Trump already invited Kim to the White House. Here’s the statement they both signed:

President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK) held a first, historic summit in Singapore on June 12, 2018.

President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un conducted a comprehensive, in-depth and sincere exchange of opinions on the issues related to the establishment of new US-DPRK relations and the building of a lasting and robust peace regime on the Korean Peninsula. President Trump committed to provide security guarantees to the DPRK, and Chairman Kim Jong Un reaffirmed his firm and unwavering commitment to complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

Convinced that the establishment of new US-DPRK relations will contribute to the peace and prosperity of the Korean Peninsula and of the world, and recognizing that mutual confidence building can promote the denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula, President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un state the following:

1. The United States and the DPRK commit to establish new US-DPRK relations in accordance with the desire of the peoples of the two countries for peace and prosperity.

2. The United States and DPRK will join their efforts to build a lasting and stable peace regime on the Korean Peninsula.

3. Reaffirming the April 27, 2018 Panmunjom Declaration, the DPRK commits to work toward complete denuclearization of the Korean Peninsula.

4. The United States and the DPRK commit to recovering POW/MIA remains, including the immediate repatriation of those already identified.

Having acknowledged that the US-DPRK summit — the first in history — was an epochal event of great significance in overcoming decades of tensions and hostilities between the two countries and for the opening up of a new future, President Trump and Chairman Kim Jong Un commit to implement the stipulations in the joint statement fully and expeditiously. The United States and the DPRK commit to hold follow-on negotiations, led by the US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and a relevant high-level DPRK official, at the earliest possible date, to implement the outcomes of the US-DPRK summit.

President Donald J. Trump of the United States of America and Chairman Kim Jong Un of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea have committed to cooperate for the development of new US-DPRK relations and for the promotion of peace, prosperity, and the security of the Korean Peninsula and of the world.

DONALD J. TRUMP
President of the United States of America

KIM JONG UN
Chairman of the State Affairs Commission of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea

June 12, 2018
Sentosa Island
Singapore

You’ll notice there are no specifics–no definition of “denuclearization,” no mention of a timetable or inspections. Yet Trump has already promised to stop the joint U.S-South Korean military exercises in South Korea. The Washington Post reports:

Trump sounded triumphant following his meeting with Kim, expressing confidence that the North Korean leader was serious about abandoning his nuclear program and transforming his country from an isolated rogue regime into a respected member of the world community.

But Trump provided few specifics about what steps Kim would take to back up his promise to denuclearize his country and how the United States would verify that North Korea was keeping its pledge to get rid of its nuclear weapons, saying that would be worked out in future talks….

Kim, it seems, got at least one benefit up front.

Trump announced that he will order an end to regular “war games” that the United States conducts with ally South Korea, a reference to annual joint military exercises that are an irritant to North Korea.

Trump called the exercises “very provocative” and “inappropriate” in light of the optimistic opening he sees with North Korea. Ending the exercises would also save money, Trump said.

The United States has conducted such exercises for decades as a symbol of unity with Seoul and previously rejected North Korean complaints as illegitimate. Ending the games would be a significant political benefit for Kim, but Trump insisted he did not give up leverage.

South Korea and Japan can’t be very happy about that, but Trump has already said that he wants to pull all the troops out of South Korea.

The LA Times: Trump and Kim agree to more talks but fail to produce nuclear disarmament plan.

President Trump wrapped up his improbable summit with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un on Tuesday, vowing to “start a new history” with the nuclear-armed nation after signing a vaguely worded agreement that contained no concrete plan for disarmament.

Later, at a 65-minute news conference, Trump said he had agreed to North Korea’s longtime demands to stop joint U.S. military exercises with South Korea. The war games have been a mainstay of the U.S. alliance with Seoul for decades.

Trump said halting the drills would save “a lot of money” and he called them “provocative,” the complaint North Korea often made. He also said he hopes eventually to withdraw the 28,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, although not as part of the current agreement with Kim….

He lavished praise on Kim as a “great talent,” denied concerns about treating him as an equal and painted a rosy picture of North Korea’s potential future — one laid out in a bizarre, propaganda-style video that the White House had prepared for the North Korean leader.

Asked why he trusted a ruler who had murdered family members and jailed thousands of political prisoners, Trump lauded Kim for taking over the regime at age 26, when his father died in 2011, and being “able to run it, and run it tough.”

While Trump repeatedly portrayed his two-page agreement with Kim as “comprehensive,” it contained little new except a commitment by both sides to continue diplomatic engagement, with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo leading the U.S. side in future talks.

There’s much more at the LA Times link. That is probably the most realistic article I’ve read about the summit.

More North Korea summit links to check out:

ABC News Exclusive: ‘I do trust him’: Trump opens up about Kim after historic summit.

ABC News: President Trump sits down with George Stephanopoulos: Transcript.

Nicholas Kristof at The New York Times: Trump Was Outfoxed in Singapore.

Vanity Fair: “They’re Trying to Make Sure It’s Not a Total Farce”: Washington’s Diplomatic Corps Does Not Have High Hopes for the Trump-Kim Summit.

Robert Kuttner at The American Prospect: The Lasting Damage Of Trump’s Disastrous Diplomacy.

This one is an argument for women world leaders. Yahoo News: ‘Alpha male’ handshakes as Trump, Kim meet, but body language shows some nerves.

Reuters: Iran warns North Korea: Trump could cancel deal before getting home.

 

In other news . . .

George Conway

Kellyanne Conway’s husband George Conway has a piece at Lawfare in which he defends the Muller investigation: The Terrible Arguments Against the Constitutionality of the Mueller Investigation. Iran has Trump’s number alright.

In an early-morning tweet last week, President Trump took aim once again at Special Counsel Robert Mueller, but with a brand new argument: “The appointment of the Special Councel,” the president typed, “is totally UNCONSTITUTIONAL!” [….]

He didn’t explain what his argument was, or where he got it, but a good guess is that it came from some recent writings by a well-respected conservative legal scholar and co-founder of the Federalist Society, professor Steven Calabresi. Unfortunately for the president, these writings are no more correct than the spelling in his original tweet. And in light of the president’s apparent embrace of Calabresi’s conclusions, it is well worth taking a close look at Calabresi’s argument in support of those conclusions.

Calabresi has made his argument in a Wall Street Journal op-ed, on a Federalist Society teleconference and in a more detailed paper he styles as a “Legal Opinion.” He contends that all of Special Counsel Mueller’s work is unconstitutionally “null and void” because, in Calabresi’s view, Mueller’s appointment violates the Appointments Clause of the Constitution, Article II, Section 2, Clause 2.

The Appointments Clause distinguishes between two classes of executive-branch “officers”—principal officers and inferior officers—and specifies how each may be appointed. As a general rule, the clause says that “Officers of the United States”—principal officers—must be nominated by the president and appointed “with the Advice and Consent of the Senate.” At the same time, however, the Appointments Clause allows for a more convenient selection method for “inferior officers”: It goes on to add, “but the Congress may by law vest the Appointment of such inferior Officers, as they think proper, in the President alone, in the Courts of law, or in the Heads of Departments.”

Read the rest at Lawfare. I wonder how Kellyanne is dealing with her husbands differences of opinion with the Trump gang?

There has been some progress in the case against Trump’s violation of the emoluments clause of the Constitution. The New York Times: Judge in Emoluments Case Questions Defense of Trump’s Hotel Profits.

GREENBELT, Md. — A federal judge on Monday sharply criticized the Justice Department’s argument that President Trump’s financial interest in his company’s hotel in downtown Washington is constitutional, a fresh sign that the judge may soon rule against the president in a historic case that could head to the Supreme Court.

The plaintiffs in the lawsuit, the District of Columbia and the state of Maryland, charge that Mr. Trump’s profits from the hotel violate anti-corruption clauses of the Constitution that restrict government-bestowed financial benefits, or emoluments, to presidents beyond their official salary. They say the hotel is siphoning business from local convention centers and hotels.

The judge, Peter J. Messitte of the United States District Court in Maryland, promised to decide by the end of July whether to allow the plaintiffs to proceed to the next stage, in which they could demand financial records from the hotel or other evidence from the president. The case takes aim at whether Mr. Trump violated the Constitution’s emoluments clauses, which prevent a president from accepting government-bestowed benefits either at home or abroad. Until now, the issue of what constitutes an illegal emolument has never been litigated.

Attorneys general for the District of Columbia and Maryland say that by allowing foreign officials to patronize the five-star Trump International Hotel blocks from the White House, Mr. Trump is violating the Constitution’s ban on payments from foreign governments to federal officeholders. They also claim the president is violating a related clause that restricts compensation, other than his salary, from the federal government or from state governments.

Read the rest at the NYT link.

Finally, from Mother Jones: Sessions Makes It Vastly Harder for Victims of Domestic Abuse and Gang Violence to Receive Asylum.

Attorney General Jeff Sessions has just made it dramatically harder for victims of violence to receive asylum in the United States. Using his authority over the US immigration court system, Sessions decided Monday that people fleeing gangs and domestic violence will generally not qualify for asylum.

To receive asylum, applicants have to show they were persecuted because of characteristics such as their race, religion, or membership in a “particular social group.” Sessions wrote Monday that a gang’s victims have not necessarily “been targeted ‘on account of’ their membership” in a social group just because the gang harassed a certain geographical area. He expressed similar skepticism about domestic violence claims, overturning a 2014 case that established that “married women in Guatemala who are unable to leave their relationship” can count as a social group.

Sessions’ decision requires asylum seekers to show that their government has “condoned” the violence committed by non-governmental actors or demonstrated an “inability” to protect victims. “Generally, claims by aliens pertaining to domestic violence or gang violence perpetrated by non-governmental actors will not qualify for asylum,” he wrote. “While I do not decide that violence inflicted by non-governmental actors may never serve as the basis for an asylum or withholding application based on membership in a particular social group, in practice such claims are unlikely to satisfy the statutory grounds for proving group persecution.”

Michelle Brané, the director of the Migrant Rights and Justice program at the Women’s Refugee Commission, calls the decision a “devastating blow” to families who come to the United States seeking protection. “What this means in practical terms is that the United States is turning its back on our commitment to never again send people back to a country where their life is at risk,” she says in an email. “Women and children will die as a result of these policies.”

Now, what stories are you following today?